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Gaitenby's performance is uplifting

By John Vellante, Globe Staff, 4/17/2001

10-week program of high intensity and high mileage in Alpine, Calif., was obviously the right way to go for Jill Gaitenby.

Proof of that was never more evident than yesterday, when she shattered her personal best by more than 12 minutes and was the first American woman, 14th overall, to cross the Boston Marathon finish line.

Gaitenby, who calls Providence home but has a soft spot for Boston's Back Bay (where she lived for 12 years) and Hadley (where she grew up), was clocked in 2 hours 36 minutes 45 seconds - 12:13 better than her previous best of 2:48:58 in last year's US Olympic Trials in South Carolina.

Upon deciding that she wanted to take her marathon training to the next level, Gaitenby enrolled in the Field of Discovery USA program in Alpine, about 4,000 feet above sea level.

''I had about 10 weeks of training there prior to the Marathon,'' she said. ''It was tough. It was high intensity and high mileage. I'm 34 and I figured if I really wanted to do well, this was my chance.

''I had never run more than 75 miles a week. When I got in the program, I started running 100, 110, 120. The highest I hit was 124 about three weeks ago. During the 10 weeks, I averaged about 107 miles per week. Did it pay off? I don't think there's any other way to explain knocking 12 minutes off my personal best. Training with other top Americans and Canadians made a big difference.''

Gaitenby engaged in a spirited duel with Susannah Beck, of Eugene, Ore., who finished 15th in 2:37:12. Beck led Gaitenby from the start, fell behind slightly climbing Heartbreak Hill, regained the lead on the way down, then lost it for good at Coolidge Corner.

''I wanted to run about a 6-minute pace, but I think I went out a little fast,'' Gaitenby said. ''I didn't want to run alone, so I made sure I stayed with a group, but they were running too fast, so I had to pull back. The hills were kind of tough, but we've been doing so much hill training in California that I was ready for it. Coming down to the last two or three miles, I had a lot of strength left to maintain the pace that I was at.''

Gaitenby, who graduated from Boston College in 1988, was a faithful Boston Marathon viewer for the dozen years she lived in the Back Bay. Until 1993, when she ran her first Boston and finished 351st. Never, though, did she dream she'd come this far.

Asked if a US woman can win Boston again - something that hasn't happened since 1985 when Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach prevailed - Gaitenby, who says her next marathon will be New York or Chicago, was enthusiastic.

''I think so,'' she said. ''I mean, Joan Benoit did very well, and I don't see why another American can't follow suit. I think the program that I'm in is a great program that defines US talent and we have the same training program as [Kenyans] Moses Tanui and Elijah Lagat and Joseph Chebet. So I don't see why not.''

This story ran on page G06 of the Boston Globe on 4/17/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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